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Published - Dennis Minott | Another Call for compassion and transparency in treatment of Haitians


Published: Sunday | June 30, 2024 | 12:07 AM




  1. Some of the 50 Haitian orphans on their arrival in Jamaica in March this year. (Photo: Naphtali Junior) - Jamaica Observer

  2. Minott: "Providing sanctuary to disabled orphans from a violence-stricken country is a commendable act that reflects our nation’s values. However, the recent deportations cast a shadow over this gesture. " Credit : Ricardo Makyn Jamaica Gleaner


In recent months, Jamaica has found itself at the centre of a humanitarian crisis involving 59 disabled Haitian orphans and their caregivers. This situation, which began as a compassionate gesture, has taken a troubling turn with the deportation of 12 caregivers and the disappearance of two others, along with a child suffering from hydrocephalus. As a nation usually given to warmth and hospitality, it is imperative that we reflect on our actions and policies to ensure that we uphold our values of compassion and justice.


In March, Jamaica opened its doors to 59 disabled orphans from Haiti, a country plagued by violence and instability. This act of kindness was a testament to our nation’s commitment to humanitarian principles. The orphans, along with their caregivers from HaitiChildren, were granted a 90-day stay to ensure their safety and well-being. However, as the 90-day period expired, the situation took a distressing turn.


On Tuesday night, immigration authorities deported 12 of the 16 caregivers who had come to Jamaica to assist with the care of these vulnerable children. Mustard Seed Communities (MSC), the organisation responsible for the orphans’ care, confirmed that the police escorted the 12 Haitians from Jacob’s Ladder, MSC’s facility in St Ann, and sent them back to Haiti. This decision raises several concerns about the treatment of refugees and the processes in place to extend their stay in Jamaica.

First, it is essential to acknowledge the initial humanitarian gesture made by Jamaica. Providing sanctuary to disabled orphans from a violence-stricken country is a commendable act that reflects our nation’s values. However, the recent deportations cast a shadow over this gesture. The caregivers played a crucial role in the children’s lives, offering them stability and care in a foreign land. Deporting them without a clear process for extending their stay undermines the very essence of our initial act of compassion.


COMPLICATED SITUATION

The disappearance of two caregivers and a child with hydrocephalus further complicates the situation. The child, who recently underwent surgery at the Bustamante Hospital for Children, remains missing. This raises serious questions about the safety and well-being of the orphans under our care. What steps are being taken to locate the missing individuals and ensure their safety? The lack of communication from the Child Protection and Family Service Agency (CPFSA) and the Ministry of National Security is deeply concerning. Transparency is crucial in such situations, to maintain public trust and ensure the protection of vulnerable individuals.


Conflicting reports about the care and treatment of the orphans add another layer of complexity to this issue. While MSC has dismissed allegations of mistreatment and denial of access to healthcare, HaitiChildren has provided a different narrative. In a radio interview, Sheryl Ritchie, a spokesperson for HaitiChildren, claimed that the caregivers were on a “week-off rotation”, a claim that MSC has denied. These conflicting accounts highlight the need for an independent investigation to ensure that the orphans are receiving the care and support they need.


The denial of entry to Susan Krabacher, the founder of HaitiChildren, by immigration authorities, further complicates the situation. Krabacher’s presence in Jamaica could provide much-needed oversight and support for the orphans. Denying her entry raises questions about the transparency and accountability of the care being provided. It is essential to understand the reasons behind this decision and how it impacts the overall well-being of the children.


In light of these concerns, it is crucial to propose constructive solutions that balance humanitarian principles with security considerations. Establishing a formal process for extending visas or granting asylum to caregivers of vulnerable refugees is a necessary step. This would ensure that caregivers can continue to provide stability and support to the orphans without the constant threat of deportation.


OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE

Additionally, creating a joint oversight committee with representatives from both Jamaican and Haitian organisations could enhance transparency and accountability. This committee could monitor the care and treatment of the orphans, address any concerns, and ensure that the children’s best interests are always prioritised. (Believe me, Zoom works well here, and still over there, for meaningful virtual meetings of Haitian and Jamaican stakeholders.)


As a nation, Jamaica normally maintains a proud history of compassion and hospitality. Our actions in this situation should reflect these values. We must remember our obligations under international refugee conventions and strive to uphold the principles of justice and humanity. By addressing the concerns raised, ensuring transparency, and proposing constructive solutions, we can navigate this complex situation with integrity and compassion.


Here’s the thing:

The treatment of Haitian refugees in Jamaica requires careful reflection and action. While our initial gesture of providing sanctuary to disabled orphans was commendable, the recent deportations and lack of transparency raise serious concerns. By addressing these issues and proposing solutions that prioritise the well-being of the orphans, we can uphold our nation’s values and ensure that we remain among the beacons of compassion and justice in the region. This column aims to address the key issues, propose solutions, and call for a compassionate and transparent approach to the situation.

I cannot help but wonder: What are the psychological impacts on children when their caregivers are deported?


Haitian Creole: Pa posib pou mwen pa mande: Ki konsekans psikolojik deportasyon genyen sou timoun yo lè paran yo oswa moun ki pran swen yo disparèt?

French: Je ne peux pas m’empêcher de me demander: Quels sont les impacts psychologiques sur les enfants lorsque leurs parents ou leurs gardiens sont expulsés?


by Dennis A. Minott, PhD.

June 26, 2024


Dennis Minott, PhD, is the CEO of A-QuEST-FAIR. He is a multilingual green resources specialist, a research physicist, and a modest mathematician who worked in the oil and energy sector. Send feedback to: a_quest57@yahoo.com or columns@gleanerjm.com

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